Okinawa is WAY more than o.k.
Here is my first full day on Okinawa:
Woke at 6 and snuck out of the room so I wouldn't wake my roommates. We're four people sleeping on futons in a tatami room at an eco-hostel on the northern tip of Okinawa. I read for about an hour as I waited my turn for the bath. The bath is hot: about 44 degrees Celcius. It's interesting how the morning baths invigorate and the evening baths relax.
At 8 we had breakfast outdoors: fresh pineapple, eggs w/home-smoked salmon, cucumber, rice, miso soup. Our host, Masa-san, takes great joy in doing everything himself. He built this minshuku (hostel) w/a traditional thatch roof and he and his wife are committed to a local, seasonal slow food menu.
After saying goodbye to some fellow travellers (w/whom we shared much alcohol last night when we arrived), we got in the car and headed south. I'm the designated driver and this is the first time I've ever driven on the left hand side of the road. It's a rite of passage; I didn't think I had many of those left. First stop: the beach. We didn't swim, but spent about an hour poking through shells, watching a man dive for sea urchins, and revelling in the sea air.
Lunch was at a tiny, open-air cafe deep in the rain forest. This is one of those places we would NEVER have found without Cayce's expertise and research. Perched among giant tree ferns we drank lemon verbena tea and I had a pizza made with local anchovies. Do you think that's why the cat befriended us?
Next stop: the Hiro Coffee Farm. The smell of roasting coffee beans confirmed that we'd found the right spot. First we drank tea made from coffee leaves, then several pots of delicious local coffee. It was hard to tear ourselves away from the families who ran the place, their kids, the bright colors, and very warm sunshine.
But we did. Then continued south and west, across the island through pineapple country. When we stopped to take a photo of a field of fruit, the couple harvesting their pineapples looked apprehensive at first, but ended up giving us each a whole fruit to take with us, then sliced several open and fed us on the spot! (Please note her socks; these are to wear w/geta, the wooden sandals.) This woman was very adept with her knife.
We reached the west coast and headed north back toward the minshuku. Gorgeous beaches on the left and a troubling amount of Miscanthus on the right. The vast amounts in the landscape put it on a par with Phragmites in the NE US. We stopped in at local coop stores, buying salt (an Okinawan specialty), fruit, and almari (a distilled rice spirit) for this evening.
Back in time for another bath, a beer, and some down time before dinner. Joe is playing Hendrix on his guitar and Michael, I wish you were here.
I'll back track when I can to catch you up on our time up north in Hijiori Onsen. Suffice it to say that yesterday we went from 2 feet of snow to roadside hibiscus in bloom.